The Profound Meaning Behind an AA Chestnut

Andy Crooks writing as Andy C
2 min readMay 23, 2024

Let the God within me work without me.

This old AA chestnut has been around for years. Its memorable simplicity is a veil for its profound complexity, which like a chestnut, we can open and enjoy.

let

The choice of verb is essential. I don’t seek, strive, or will myself — I let, allow, stand back. This starting point is the central premise; without this understanding, nothing happens. In the beginning, I must get out of the way.

the God within me

For People of the Book, the phrase highlights the truth of our origin and being. We are made in the image of God. There is a spark or element of the divine within us, which we can feel and know. Whether it is Carl Jung’s universal unconscious or Christ’s assertion of our divine lineage, many of us have felt the flow and force of a power greater than us, yet within us.

work

The operation of the truth of this aphorism requires work. It is not passive; it’s active. And like work, it is not without thought; it is volitional: effort with intention and purpose. It will not happen by accident.

without me

This is the key. The God within can achieve nothing if my Ego dominates; the absence of self is required. If I vacate the Ego Chair, God can achieve dominion in my soul and spirit. If I did not like the idea of God, then whatever Higher Power I have experienced can fill the void if I empty myself.

In the aphorism, we come full circle. At the beginning, I must “let” get out of the way, and at the end, it is “without me,” I must be empty of self.

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Andy Crooks writing as Andy C

For Andy C, not drinking was the first spiritual awakening. He’s been blessed with subsequent spiritual awakenings as the results of the 12 steps.